After years of denying there is a housing crisis in Christchurch, Gerry Brownlee starts to panic about 'severe housing issues'. But none of it is his fault, apparently.
Ever since the big quake, the Earthquake Recovery Minister has monotonously denied that there is a housing crisis in Christchurch.
Even as late as August this year Gerry Brownlee said that 'there is absolutely no evidence of a housing crisis in Christchurch' Shortly after the Ministry of Housing, Innovation and Employment reported that over 7000 people in Christchurch could be homeless.
This figure was dropped on the city council's community, recreation and cultural committee by ministry researcher Dan Martin. Martin also warned that the situation would continue to deteriorate throughout 2014.
And deteriorate is the word when it comes to housing in Christchurch. Last month Christchurch City Missioner Michael Gorman, a man at the coal face of the housing crisis, told the Christchurch Star : 'I've never ever known it to be like this. It is the worst it has ever been. Usually there is always hope but now it feels there is no hope left out there.'
Brownlee is often dismissed as the incompetent clown who eats all the pies (I plead guilty of such a caricature) , but this merely makes light of the enormous damage the man has inflicted on Christchurch. He and his government's ideological belief that somehow 'the market' will sort things out has only served to reduce people's lives to one of financial hardship, homelessness, health problems and a myriad of other difficulties.
Brownlee's myopic belief that the free market will provide sufficient housing has been as realistic as his insistence that competition in the market would eventually lead to a fall in rents. But they have only continued to go in one direction. Up.
Today we have families living in the quake damaged houses of the former red zone because they can't afford the rents that are being demanded. Having a roof over your head is a basic human requirement and, when there is a lack of houses to go around, it is a need that can be exploited. And a lot of Christchurch landlords - the vampire class- have enthusiastically exploited this need.
But with an election looming Brownlee has started to panic. In one of the greatest displays of hypocrisy this year , Brownlee last month accused the Christchurch City Council of being slow to impose his miserable plan to squeeze more housing within Christchurch's present urban boundaries
'The longer we wait the more severe our housing issues will become,' lectured Brownlee. That his failure to act for over three years has served only to exacerbate the crisis doesn't seem to have occurred to him at all.
The Christchurch City Council have been less than enthusiastic about Brownlee's miserable plan because they know that not only will it not work, it will lead to future problems.
It won't increase the number of affordable homes and will only serve to destroy Christchurch's urban environment with, among other things , two cramped and characterless boxes built on land where they once stood a good family home with a garden. Of course Gerry Brownlee won't be moving into one of these tiny boxes anytime soon and his quality of life will remain unaffected.
It will allow property developers to make even more money out of the housing crisis as they proceed to wreck Christchurch's urban environment. Councillor Yani Johanson has already raised the spectre of future slums.
While Housing Minster Nick Smith has repeatedly argued that there is no 'silver bullet' to solving the housing crisis what he doesn't say is that it his beloved free market which cannot provide a realistic solution.
It is not enough to exhort the market and fiddle with planning, as Brownlee continues to do.
A common sense solution is that the state must again assume its responsibilities. The state must again engage with the community to build affordable homes for all.
We need a real change in society where homes are built for peoples needs not for profit. We should remove the profit motive from housing for good. We should put people's need before private profit.
But right now Christchurch is dealing with a Earthquake Recovery minister who is a neoliberal fathead and who said last year that the government did not want to 'influence' the housing market because it could 'lower the appetite of private investors to provide a solution that could be lucrative for investors'.
Yes, we must look after those struggling property investors...